Most people have a misconception of estate planning. Many people do not think they have the assets to require it; others think they are too young to worry about it. Estate planning is not contingent on wealth or age. Estate planning is all about those loved ones that we leave behind. Comprehensive estate planning is more than just simply drafting a will. Estate planning also minimizes potential taxes and fees and sets up contingency plans to make sure your wishes regarding health care treatment are followed. On the financial side, a good estate plan coordinates what will happen with your home, your investments, your business, your life insurance, your employee benefits (such as a 401K plan), and other property in the event you became disabled or in the event of your death.
What are some typical estate planning documents?
Several of the following documents are typically used as part of the estate planning process:
A Will, sometimes called a Last Will and Testament, to transfer property you hold in your name to the person(s) and/or organization(s) you want to have it. A Will also typically names someone you select to be your Personal Representative (or Executor) to carry out your instructions and names a Guardian if you have minor children. A Will only becomes effective upon your death.
A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care appoints a person you designate to make decisions regarding your health care treatment in the event that you are unable to provide informed consent. It is an advance directive that gives doctors and hospitals your instructions regarding the nature and extent of the care you want should you suffer permanent incapacity, such as an irreversible coma.
A Durable Power of Attorney for Property appoints a person you designate to act for you and handle financial matters should you be unable or unavailable to do so.
A Living Trust can be used to hold legal title to and provide a mechanism to manage your property. You can select the person or persons you want—often even yourself—as the Trustee(s) to carry out the instructions you want in the Trust and name one or more Successor Trustees to take over if you cannot. Unlike a Will, a Trust usually becomes effective immediately, continues in force during your lifetime even in the event of your incapacity, and continues after your death. Most Trusts are revocable which allows the person who creates the Trust to make future changes, modifications and even to terminate it.
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